Johnny Cueto had thrown a great game. It looked like the bad guys from San Francisco might escape death again, but when Cueto threw the pitch; he knew off the bat it was a fatal blow.
What a night it would have been to be at Wrigley last night. Or to be young and be in Wrigleyville. And you can’t just go up there if you’re not a Cubs fan and soak it in, and really get all of it. But if you grew up a Cubs fan, and you were there last night; you’ve really earned the right to soak it all up.
I imagine it was a crazy, city-wide party that lasted until the wee hours of the morning like Harry Caray used to do. And today they wake with glazed eyes and ready to do it all over again. Life is good in baseball’s Camelot right now. And Kris Bryant gets to play King Arthur with Jeff Samardija on the bump in game two.
The Cubs winning this series and advancing in the playoffs – and knocking off the boring Giants in an even numbered year – is good for baseball. We can all enjoy it a little bit for that reason.
It’s funny – we had this blog going when Cueto began his Reds career. They were coming out of the darkness, over a decade of futility. You knew you were on the ride up. Today, it’s like the organization admitting that this current core and guys on the 25-man roster will never win a title or play in a World Series. I mean, it was official before today of course. But this makes the probability meter of that ever happening absolute zero.
Right down to the very end; right down to his very last start as a Red, Johnny Cueto was awesome. We kind of eulogized him after his gem in Washington a few outings ago. The bottom line is he’s the best homegrown pitcher the Reds have put in a uniform since Mario Soto. Who knows when we’ll have another true ace like Cueto or how it will go when it happens. I may be a very old man.
It’s really hard saying goodbye to the players you love, the players you’ve grown so attached to. The players you’ve spent so many evenings in your living room living and dying with through the eb and flow of a baseball game and season.
While the Reds prepare to mire in obscurity, Cueto will write a new chapter and start more games in the postseason and probably reach incredible heights yet in his career. The book on this chapter has sadly closed. I’ll really miss Johnny Cueto.
There was no way Johnny Cueto was coming out of this game in the ninth inning. Not before, and not during. The Reds are showcasing the durability of their workhorse ace – 122 pitches later he shutout the Nationals in Washington and beat Max Scherzer soundly.
The Reds gave Cueto a little tribute tonight, staking him to five early runs. Cueto struck out eleven and walked one. It was an absolutely dominant performance.
I remember Cueto’s first start ever – it was April 3rd, 2008 against the Arizona DiamondBacks in Cincinnati. He had similar stuff on that day, striking out ten and walking only one. The only hit he gave up that day was a sixth inning home run to Justin Upton. From right there I knew Cueto was a special international talent the Reds were lucky enough to grab somehow.
He’s gone 91-62 with 11 complete games and five shutouts in his career as a Red. He’s tallied 1106 strikeouts and just 385 walks. His ERA pitching half his starts in a bandbox is around 3.20, phenomenal.
These eight years that have passed by have went by all too quickly. You look back at the memories and realize that he’s probably the best Reds pitcher to wear the uniform in a couple of decades. As you think about the memories, you remember that night he pulled the muscle in his side in 2012 in San Francisco. You start thinking about ‘what if’. If he doesn’t, the Reds just might (and in our opinion) probably go to the World Series that year. The Giants flag that flies forever from 2012 should have belonged to the Reds.
Perhaps Cueto moves on elsewhere to get that postseason glory with another team – we have a feeling he will – and if he does good for him. He’s been a quiet guy that has stayed out of trouble and made headlines for the right reasons. A team shouldn’t really ever have to part with a Johnny Cueto but it’s just not in the Reds fortunes or pockets to be able to contain him. Baseball is still after all; a business.
Cueto doesn’t need us to eulogize him as a Red, he did that just fine tonight. It’s been a pleasure getting to watch this guy every fifth day and to see him pitch a handful of times in person. He’s the epitome of what an ‘ace’ is in baseball right now.
The Reds season is a mess, and they’re going to blow this thing up. But on this Sunday, Johnny Cueto and Jay Bruce turned back the clock.
Cueto threw seven shutout innings and struck out nine for his fourth victory of the year. It kind of stinks because days like today are just auditions for a contender.
And we can’t begin to figure out Jay Bruce, we’re absolutely done trying. We cut him from one of our most important fantasy teams late last night. It figures that he would have a day like he did today. There’s probably no salvaging things for Bruce long-term in a Reds uniform at this point. He either plays poorly and he’s a goner, or he plays well and the Reds move him shortly after the All-Star game. You look at the calender, and it’s June 7th. It’s possible that Jay Bruce could just have over a month left in a Reds uniform, and it’s kind of a sad realization to accept that he’s never going to become a franchise cornerstone.
This might have been the last one – so I hope you enjoyed today. Actually, take away the ‘might’. If you’ve followed the game long enough, you know in your heart this was the last time that this current core will take the field on Opening Day in Cincinnati as a group. Today almost told us that much. It was a beautiful win, a great start to the marathon that honored Opening Day in the city it should most be honored in. But on more nights then not, the Reds aren’t going to get the type of outing Johnny Cueto provided them with.
When they don’t have that type of performance, it could be a rough go for them. And it was almost a tough day anyways with their lack of a set-up man. When Andrew McCutchen homered to that little spot in right center that he always seems to sneak one out to in Cincinnati (he kills the Reds more than Billy Hall ever did), it seemed like the Reds were going to waste Cueto’s great outing and Bruce’s laser into the Moondeck in right.
Todd Frazier would have none of it – he hit a ball into the upper tank in left in the bottom of the 8th off Tony Watson that would claim the day for Cincinnati. It came after Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto singled to apply some pressure to the lights out reliever.
And one more time, the core of Bruce, Votto, Phillips, Mesoraco, Frazier, Cueto, Chapman had one once the Cuban came in and dominated the ninth inning like he usually does. But if things go bad like we think they might – the Reds will make some moves and some of the veteran faces we’ve all grown the love and attachment with won’t be here on this day next year.
So we appreciated today for what it was, a great memory that we’ll always have and at least a day in first place in this season where the world seems to be doubting the Reds.
Some people might get really down on me for saying that – they’ll point to when the Reds were running out Jose Acevedo or Jimmy Haynes or Brandon Claussen as starting pitchers and were a losing team and tell me how good we have it now. How we’ve ‘made the playoffs’ three out of the last four years.
But there’s something that kills you about watching a team evolve from the abyss into what you know is a core’s window – and make no mistake – the last two seasons were the peak of this current group’s window. It didn’t ever hurt like that (like this) back when we were so horrible. It has taken me the entire offseason just to get some feeling back in me after the way we went out. To be fully honest, I’m still not over that 2012 afternoon that Buster Posey hit the grandslam off Mat Latos. I’ve never felt anything like that in a lifetime of watching sports. I don’t know if I’ll ever really get over it. It was like dealing with a death.
It’s made it increasingly tough to write about the Reds. Their passive offseason this year really did nothing to dispel that. If anything, it just made me a little bit apathetic towards their upcoming season. You look at their lineup, and there’s still some thunder. There are things you can find a positive in. If their pitching staff doesn’t have any injury, it features some phenomenal arms.
But this is largely the same group that couldn’t get it done the last few seasons. Something is missing. If I could tell you what that something was I would be doing a lot more than just writing about the Reds; it’s like the million-dollar question. I think the Reds needed Aroldis Chapman to develop into a top of the rotation starter that they could roll out in a must win game in the playoffs. A Randy Johnson type figure who the opposition knows is simply going to always beat them. Someone to get Mike Leake out of there. A lot of guys could close for this team. Few guys in the league strike fear into a lineup like Chapman could as a starter. But that’s never going to happen now.
Maybe that something is a real heart and soul leader. Someone who keeps Brandon Phillips in line. As much as I like Phililps, I’m starting to wonder if he’s not a little bit of a cancer in the locker room. I wouldn’t have cared if the Reds decided to part with him – but almost sheepishly they made the choice to bring him back. And along with that, they brought back the entire group that has failed to win the big one year after year. That’s concerning. You keep banging your head against the same wall long enough, all you’re going to get is a headache. The only thing different is the manager, and Bryan Price isn’t even a new voice. It’s not a shake-up. Everyone else got better, and at best the Reds stayed the same.
Let’s start the post with the most glorious part of the day: Jay Bruce’s 443-foot moonshot. It was his 12th home run of the season. It came off a 3-0 count from Wily Peralta. Bruce had himself a nice little weekend. A walk-off home run on Friday night. A 2 for 3 day with a walk in a game where no one on the Reds hit on Saturday. And then this bomb today. When Bruce is going like he is going right now, it’s a good idea to just let him go. I would like to know whether or not the call to let him green light on 3 and 0 came from Dusty or from Bruce himself. Either way, I said to myself when he was in that count that it was a perfect time to let him try and hit one into the sun deck. By the time I finished the thought, the ball was ricocheting off the facade of the entrance way to a section of the ball park that few home runs are hit.
And we go back to the thought we had coming home from work Friday while sitting in traffic:
This *should* be a huge weekend for Jay Bruce. The splits are all in his favor
When Jay Bruce is at home, and he’s facing fastball dependent right-handed pitching, AND that opposing team happens to be the Brewers; something good is bound to happen. And it did this weekend.
We’ve still got some time until the All-Star break, and Bruce has an opportunity to play his way into a spot if he can just stay hot. The average sits at .283, with 12 homers and a quiet 47 RBI. He’s having a nice little season that with a few breaks could end up a career year.
But let’s not make this all about Jay Bruce. Zach Cozart and Joey Votto added two hits each. Johnny Cueto had the most Cueto outing ever. He improved to 4-0 on the season, allowing only one run while striking out three and walking no one in six innings. The Reds moved to 42-28 on father’s day, and gained a game in the NL Central standings on the Cardinals. They’re 2.5 back, and something tells me they’re not going to go away this year.
Another ballpark has been crossed off the list. Another bucket list item fulfilled. The fact that I got to see my favorite team win 6-0 and Johnny Cueto threw a one-hitter was just icing on the cake of what was a great night in my charmed life.
The day started immediately with a trip to Primanti Brothers. I would give it five stars out of five. We parked our car and went to the original location, and I would recommend that anyone going to Pittsburgh for the first time does the same thing.
Here’s the famous mural of Pittsburgh folk on the wall in the original Primanti Bros. I could sit and stare at it for hours it’s so well done. This is where you get a sense of the rich tradition that this town has from it’s sport. Clemente is a God-like figure in these parts. He sits in the middle of the mural, symbolically.
Look at Jimmy Leyland there! This is just awesome. Let’s do one more.
Willie Pops Stargell says hello.
I didn’t get a shirt because I didn’t carry any cash with me (stupid move). But I did get a couple of items that were pretty damn solid.
Best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life, the corned beef at Primanti Bros. It’s a little over six bucks I think. So good in fact that I had one also after the game (in which I only remember a little bit).
And here’s Iron City Light. It’s really not that light and does have some bite to it. Kind of reminded me of when I used to steal my dad’s Michelob out of the fridge. Those Michelob’s weren’t all that tasty but they were the only beer there. I don’t know, I drank these because I was in Pittsburgh. Then I went ahead and had about six more.
We stopped at this cigar bar after Primanti Brothers. What I remember about getting to this great place – which is called ‘Leaf & Bean’ for the homemade coffee they brew – is that you have to walk through a cool little market district to get there that has a lot of family owned businesses and farmer’s market type stops along the way. Very cool little section of Pittsburgh.
We talked shop with some cigar salesman who were very hospitable to my friends and I. For purchasing our cigars they allowed us a shot of some really good rum. And then pretty soon they were talking hockey, cities, and baseball with us and just letting us pass that rum around the table. Great cigars too. A perfect way to start any ballpark tour.
And then it was time to head to the ballpark.
When it was finally time to head to the stadium, we had to walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
In my opinion, this here above is one of the most beautiful views in all of baseball. This is where you finally start to get an idea that you’re about to see a special stadium.
And once you get across that bridge, here is what you see. I missed the Willie Stargell statue and could have gotten a pick of it on the walk back to our parking garage after we spent the night; but I had a skull rattling hangover and my cell phone camera was dead and somehow; and this is the craziest part of all, but yes somehow I had maintained by camera all night long only to have lost the batteries within it. You tell me how that happens.
Alright so according to MLB The Show 13this is supposed to be ‘Bucco Blasts’. I know this because, well; I also have a Pirates franchise going on the game. I think this is one of the coolest items in any stadium.
So when we entered the stadium we actually had the chance to bullshit for Sean Casey for a little bit. He’s always been a great guy, I remember actually talking to him back when I lived in Cincinnati when he would climb into the Diamond Club seats at Great American and take pictures with fans. He’s truly one of the best guys who have ever played the game of baseball.
And I owned him in fantasy baseball in 1999. What a summer that was for him. He was riding in the high .380’s in that summer. And right then I thanked him for 1999. He got a big kick out of that and right away he remembered what a year that was for him and the Reds. I then asked him if he still talks to Adam Dunn at all, naturally. He said he saw Dunn in Spring Training and they still stay in touch. He said he went out with Dunn in Spring Training and couldn’t handle it. “I’ve got three kids at home and Dunner tried to close down every bar, I can’t hang with him anymore.”
I then asked him how much longer he thinks Dunn will play – he said pretty quickly he thinks Dunn has one more season left in him, tops. This is a man who knows and has been around the game. Time will tell if he’s right.
Would you look at that skyline! Just look at it!
Here’s the pirates jacking around before the game. Andrew McCutchen center stage.
One of the best all around players in baseball on display for us. Andrew McCutchen went 0 for 2 against Johnny Cueto with a hit by pitch. He didn’t come to bat a fourth time because the Pirates only collected one hit. I kind of wanted to see him do something big, but just to say I saw him play live in Pittsburgh is a pretty cool deal and worth the price of admission.
And there he is in centerfield in front of those ‘PIRATES’ hedge bushes. If you hit a home run into those bushes as a Pirates player on MLB The Show 13 you unlock a code or trophy of some type.
And our boy Jay Bruce had a signature game with us in attendance at the yard. Here’s his 8th home run of the season – this cost us a round of beers after we had just bought a round. This is the happiest I’ve ever been to buy back to back rounds of cold ones.
Bruce extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his two hits last night. Over his last 15 games (beginning May 1st), here are his numbers:
.338, 5 HR, 19 RBI, .352 On base %, .721 slugging, nine doubles and a triple for good measure.
The guy loves to hit in May.
The Reds also welcomed back Johnny Cueto from injury. The control wasn’t really there – he walked an unusual four hitters – but I saw him hit as high as 97 MPH on the radar gun. He gave the Reds five solid innings with his only mistake being the three run homer he allowed to Marlon Byrd.
Chapman came on in the ninth, destroyed two hitters; and avenged his blown save that was caused by danish pastries. With one more win the Reds will move to 10 games over .500, something any franchise in the game would sign up for right now. They really are playing solid ball night after night despite having some injuries to key members of their squad.
This was actually my first Opening Day that I haven’t been in the stands in Cincinnati since Joe Randa and Adam Dunn went back to back to walk off the Mets back in 2005. That’s a lot of Opening Days that I strung together. I doubt I ever make it back to that many consecutive Opening Days. I’m satisfied with the streak I put together. I’ve seen some unbelievable openers in the Queen City. From Randa’s walk-off, to Ramon Hernandez’s walk-off grand slam, to last year’s Cueto masterpiece with Bruce’s moonshot to seal it shut.
Here’s some notes from today’s ballgame, which was a long one.
The Reds really didn’t hit all spring long, and they didn’t hit today. Jay Bruce wore a golden sombrero in the middle of the order. Joey Votto went 0 for 4 but at least drew a few walks.
Shin-Soo Choo had two hits and Todd Frazier had one. And that’s all the Reds offense tallied. There weren’t even any hard hit balls.
Of the Angels fearsome three, Mike Trout was the only one with a hit. Trout went 1 for 6, Pujols and Hamilton went 0 for 4.
Chris Iannetta was the hero in this one, hitting a solo home run and doubling in the top of the 13th inning with two outs off J.J. Hoover.
The Angels pen just earned this game, though I would give it to the lack of Reds hitting. After Jered Weaver exited, six Angels relievers combined for seven scoreless innings. Ernesto Frieri was the final one and he earned the save.
I’m not too upset with this game. The Angels are a World Series contender, and the Reds are going to hit at some point. It hurts that they’ll miss Ryan Ludwick for the better part of a month with separated shoulder.
How could I forget Johnny Cueto. I feel like for the last year and a half, if you’ve seen Cueto throw once you’ve seen the same solid, dependable game. I love the effort this guy always brings to the mound with him.
Here’s some running total stats from today’s game, and from my most recent watched game:
Home Runs: 1 (Chris Iannetta 1)
Stolen bases: none
Official time watching baseball: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Times taking the dog out to pee: 2
Chores my wife asked me to do during (unofficial): one half
EDIT: I watched about two innings out of the Rockies Brewers game today, I watched Chris Sale’s entire start on and off, and I watched about five innings out of the Phillies-Braves game today. I’m not going to count it, because my totals aren’t exact. And I’m honestly ready to abandon the 2000-Inning Quest after just a night and a day. It’s too damn tedious. But still I press onward to go where no idiot has ever gone before.
STATS during the 2000-Inning Quest:
Home Runs: 4
Bryce Harper home runs: 2
Stolen bases: NONE
Official time watching baseball: 9 hours, 55 minutes
Times taking the dog out to pee: 6
Chores my wife asked me to do during (unofficial): .5
Innings left to go: 1,969
If you want me to be 100% honest, I thought it was the Reds year last year. I truly thought after they won the first two games of the NLDS in San Francisco that this team was headed to the World Series. The Reds were going to do one better than my prediction I made before the season of just reaching the NLCS; they were actually going to win the NL pennant and give themselves a shot at the first Cincinnati World Title since 1990 when I was eight years old.
The Reds completely broke my heart when they collapsed. Truth be told, I’m still not recovered from it. While I’m excited for baseball season, I don’t necessarily think that this team in this window will ever be any better positioned to win it all. You can tell me that I’m wrong, and you can tell me that they’re better for the experience they gained and all that. My opinion is the Reds missed a golden opportunity to win it all last year and will never have a better opportunity.
The American League as a whole was suspect last season and I knew at the time that the hot team from the National League would probably win it. At first glance that team looked to be the Reds. Then Johnny Cueto got hurt. Then the Reds couldn’t make a few plays when Homer Bailey threw the gem that should have ended the series. Then the Reds had to throw Leake and throw away game four. Then in game five, Buster Posey drove a stake in my heart that will never be removed.
With that, I decided that I’ll never again believe it’s going to happen until the moment actually arrives. I am forever skeptical; forever jaded. There is no such thing as ‘we’re going to win the whole damn thing’ before we do it as I declared last year on Opening Day. Not this year. You have to prove it to me now.
Major Off-Season Moves:
Signed Jack Hannahan
Traded for Shin-Soo Choo
Re-signed Ryan Ludwick
Re-signed Jonathan Broxton
Re-signed Manager Dusty Baker
I know this team so well it’s scary sometimes. When I wake up in the morning during the season and the Reds have a game on their schedule, I know if they’re going to win or lose 95% of the time before the game is even played. I still watch and see the results play out. But at the end of things when the final out is recorded, I usually had a pulse of how things were going to go. My wife sometimes asks me why I don’t just smell the roses when following this team. Why don’t I just enjoy things a little bit more? I wish it were that easy. When this much passion gets involved; when you want something so badly, you can’t help but expect the zenith.
I want that damn trophy at the end of the year. There’s no reason that this group in this era shouldn’t win a title. They’re as good as anyone in the league right now. Everyone has their breaks, their weak spots, their bad luck; it’s time to go out and get it done. Anything less is considered an absolute failure. And if and when that happens I can’t help but be completely exasperated, usually after an emotional explosion.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, last night Homer Bailey became only the fourth pitcher in Major League Postseason history to allow 1 or fewer hits while striking out least 10 batters and throwing at least 7.0 innings…he joins Bal’s Mike Mussina (1997 ALCS vs Cle, 8ip, 1h, 10k), NYY’s Orlando Hernandez (1999 World Series vs Atl, 7ip, 1h, 10k) and NYY’s Roger Clemens (2000 ALCS vs Sea, 9ip, 1h, 15k).
If the Reds bats awaken, they’ll move on to the NLCS. If they don’t, we’re going to lose this series in five game in a national embarrassment. If I’m completely honest with everyone that reads this blog; I’m not really satisfied with simply getting to the NLDS and winning a few playoff games. I want this damn series. I don’t care that Johnny Cueto and the team was dealt a really poor hand–and that’s what it was. When Homer Bailey pitches his ass off for you in an effort to keep you free from a lot of headaches, get more than four hits (three of which came in the first inning of the ballgame).
I now have a rotten feeling in my core I can’t seem to shake. That’s my thoughts on this early afternoon of what will be game four of the NLDS between the Giants and the Reds.
Did my team really just beat Matt Cain on the road out west after losing Johnny Cueto (the ace of the staff) after he recorded just one out? I have to be dreaming. This has happened to me a million times. I wake up, and it all goes away. After all, it has been 6,210 days since the Reds franchise won a postseason game (1995 against the Dodgers for those wondering).
Brandon Phillips was balling out of his mind last night. He got scoring started with a two-run home run to left field. He made a few barehand plays. He made an unreal back up play over at first base on a bunt single that kept the runner on first. He singled home an insurance run. Thank you for playing this way DatDude.
Jay Bruce continued his postseason hitting success.
Matt Cain was cruising through the first four hitters in the Reds lineup when Bruce doubled down the right field line for the Reds first hit. There would be no perfect game in this one against the Reds.
And then there was Bruce’s home run into a spot of AT&T Park where home runs aren’t typically hit:
Not sure I’ve ever gone more nuts when a couple of home runs left the yard than when I did for Phillips and Bruce going deep.
There were just so many efforts that contributed to this game. There was no one story. It was a gritty team effort comprised of Bruce, Phillips, Mat Latos, Sam LeCure (getting five outs as a pinch-hit reliever), and the Reds bullpen working out of tight spots late in the game that had me holding my breath.
The first domino has fallen, and the Reds need just ten more wins to claim a World Series title and six more to reach the fall classic. Last night was another memorable, improbable, and high-character moment from a team that has already provided a full season’s worth of them.